I’ve got some bad news for you today. As we look at our next miracle, one of seven, around which the Gospel of John is focused, we find ourselves coming upon some tough teaching.
If you are looking for three points and a poem today, the news is not good. Not only are there six points. . .but there ain’t no poetry either. This is some tough teaching coming up. Because in John Chapter 9, Jesus reveals some tough things about who He is, and how He operates. Things that don’t always sit well with us, and our mode of thinking.
Watch and see what I’m talking about. . .(show video clip of John Chapter 9 from "The Gospel of John" DVD.)
I was at a conference earlier this week where the speakers used alliteration for all their points, packaged them all nice and pretty. All starting with the same letter, and all that good preaching 101 stuff. Had the spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.
I tried to come up with such catchy phrases, points, and outline flows this week. Couldn’t do it. Too much packed into this passage. In fact, no pastor in his right mind would attempt to tackle all of this today. Fortunately, you know me well enough by now to know I’m not quite in my right mind. Someday we might start a Sunday night service, and I can split this stuff in half.
But for today, put on your helmet, tighten your seatbelt, and brace yourself. This is not for the faint of heart. You may at some point want to grab one of the children’s packets and use that to distract your attention, but if you hang in there with me, I think you will find the challenges of today’s passage worth reflecting upon.
Jesus and his disciples are walking along the street when they come across a man who at some point the author of our gospel learns has been blind since he was born. So the disciples, desiring to keep learning and growing, pose a question to Jesus that is rooted in their theology and world view.
This is their view. If this man is blind, one of two things must have happened. First, maybe he sinned. Belief in life before life on earth is nothing new. It was taught by some even earlier than the time of Jesus, and it may have played a role in the disciples asking Jesus if it was possibly this man’s sin that resulted in his blindness. They may have even been asking, did this man sin before his birth, in the life before life, and that has caused his blindness?
But if not, as far as the disciples understood things, then the second fact must be true. His parents must have sinned. Notice, they don’t ask if there are any other options. They figure it has to be one of the two. Either this man sinned, or his parents did, but for him to be blind. . .someone sinned.
And when Jesus answers, we come across our first tough teaching of the day. . .
1. SIN IS NOT THE ROOT OF ALL STRUGGLES.
Verse 3 (read). Now, if we are really honest with ourselves, we don’t like that answer. Sure, it sounds all nice and rosy that God is going to use this disability to reveal Himself. It is great to see that a miracle is going to be done, and God is going to be glorified through Jesus miraculous hand. But remember, that might partly be because we know the dude gets his eye sight back.
Take that out of the equation for a moment. You see, I actually find it much more difficult to swallow that this man is blind, and has been well into his adult life, simply so that God can be revealed in him. Seems like kind of a tough way for God to choose to show Himself. Especially if you are the blind man. I find that much more difficult to swallow than the other possibilities the disciples suggest.
In the midst of a gunfight, a gun goes off too close to the ears of a gang banger, and he goes deaf. I can live with that. Someone smokes twelve packs a day for 40 years, which we love to define as a sin. . .more on that later, and they get lung cancer. It’s sad, but it makes sense. Someone gets drunk, hops behind the wheel of a car, drives into a tree, and ends up a quadriplegic. Terribly tragic. But don’t we somehow find that easier to deal with than God simply creating someone disabled for the sake of revealing Himself?
Even the idea of struggles entering through the sin of the parents we might find a bit more palatable. The pregnant mom that shoots up and gives birth to an addicted baby. Again, very tragic. . .but we kind of figure that is how the world works. Right?
Wrong. The truth of this passage, and other passages in God’s Word is that just because we experience struggles: physical, emotional, financial, you name it. . .doesn’t necessarily mean that we or someone close to us has sinned.
Now, understand, as you explore areas in which you need healing. It is good to reflect on the role that sin and Satan might be having. Often are difficulties are rooted in sin. But it is not good to beat yourself up, or beat up someone else with some demand that sin must be at the root of their struggle. That simply is not the case.
Remember Job’s so called friends. Listen to these quotes:
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright ever cut off?
Even as I have seen,
Those who plow iniquity
And sow trouble reap the same.
By the blast of God they perish,
And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.”
They are saying to Job. . .come on, who ever heard of anyone that is innocent suffering?
A little later on. . .
“If your sons have sinned against Him,
He has cast them away for their transgression.
If you would earnestly seek God
And make your supplication to the Almighty,
If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place.”
It sounds so cruel in that context. Job’s sons are killed, and his friends say, “Dude, they must have sinned against God, so He cast them away.” It sounds so harsh, so mean. So often like the church of today.
AIDS. That’s what they get for living like a bunch of Sodomites. Cancer. That’s what they get for defiling the temple of God. Again. . .don’t get all huffy with me. I know that there are sins that carry consequences with them, even physical consequences. But we are to be a people of grace, and mercy. And we need to be aware that there is not always a sin at the root of a person’s struggle.
Jesus says, “No one sinned. He is like that so that God might be revealed in Him.”
Second, tough teaching. Verse 6 (read through verse 7). Ready for this one. . .
2. MIRACLES DO NOT HAVE TO DEFY MEDICINE.
So often people will preach on this passage, and they will talk about how unconventional this healing is. How gross this healing was. How strange. I mean, Jesus spit in some dirt, made some mud, and wiped it on this guy’s eyes. He was blind, and we’ll see in a few minutes, probably didn’t even know this person who was doing this to him.
We like to preach and say, “See, God works in very illogical ways. Be prepared to accept the strange moving of God if you want miracles to happen in your life.”
There is some truth to that. But there is a problem with that in this context. Here’s the problem. Back in the day, about the most common practice you would find, the most logical and normal medical practice being employed for eye infections and maladies was to mix clay with saliva. Jesus’ method wasn’t the miracle. The miracle was the result.
Miracles do not have to defy medicine. I would be very leery of someone suffering from heart disease that suggests God is going to heal them, so they aren’t going to have the bypass surgery. God’s miracle healing may be the fact that He has somehow equipped human beings to be able to figure out how to get into your heart, and re-wire your plumbing so that it will work for another 50 years. That’s pretty miraculous to me.
Debbie’s parents have a friend that has suffered from cancer. And he reached a point of believing that God had healed him. So he cancelled his appointments with his oncologists. And there were some people that weren’t real thrilled about that, including his wife. But he would say, “Don’t you believe? God has healed me.”
Look at a passage with me real quick. Luke 17:11 (read through verse 14). Where did Jesus send them in the process of this healing? Who were the doctors of the day, those empowered to declare a person sick or well? That’s right.
You know what. If God has healed you, He doesn’t see it as some lack of faith that you go to your doctor and have him run the tests that verify you are well. He can handle that. He’s big enough. Scripture suggests that He might even recommend it.
Miracles do not have to defy medicine. Often, we just need to see the miracle in the midst of the medicine.
Any of this stuff matter much? Am I touching on any beliefs that may not have a Biblical foundation to them? Let’s try another one. . .
3. HEALINGS REVEAL OUR HEARTS OF SKEPTICISM.
We would like to think that healings well up faith in us, right? When we see some miraculous healing, man, we are ready to believe the supernatural now. But check these people out. Verse 8 (read through verse 9). Some of these neighbors, these people who had been around this man a whole bunch. . .the simple fact that he is now healed causes them to say, “No, that can’t be Joe. Must just be someone that looks like him.”
Look at Verse 19 (read). “Come on. You must have another son, and you are pulling the old switch aro on us. Bring out the blind one.”
Healings will reveal our hearts of skepticism. And if you don’t believe me. Then I’m going to say three names. And I want you to honestly think about what you feel when you hear these names or see these people: Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, Oral Roberts. Any skepticism there?
Near the end of our healing series, I sent you all an email describing how I felt like God had healed me during our 40 Days of Prayer, “Hope for Healing.” Anyone remember that one? Well you’re in luck today. I happen to have it right here with me. This is what I wrote. . .
Fifteen-years-old sure seemed young. Granted, I had always been a very high strung, type-A, perfectionist, emotionally passionate person. But to have my first ulcer at fifteen-years-old. . .what a shock! Little did I know at the time that I was just beginning 21 years of antacids, ER visits, acid blockers, prescriptions, and over the counter medications. Over the next two decades I would be diagnosed with peptic ulcers, acid reflux, G.E.R.D., and good old fashioned heart burn. I would go through upper G.I.s, endoscopes, and other forms of prodding and poking. All told, my condition has probably resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being contributed to the medical and pharmaceutical world!
However, things only continued to deteriorate. By the beginning of this year (referring to 2005), it had become difficult to get through a meal. The simple process of eating would kick in a digestive attack that would often result in pain, discomfort, and even hours of vomiting. It almost became impossible to eat in public. My condition was witnessed at LBA dinners (give example), pastoral luncheons, and embarrassing meals at home with guests over for dinner. I spent Jamie’s birthday dinner in a Logan’s Roadhouse restroom, simply trying to remain upright. It all come to a peak on Friday, May 27th, when for almost 3 hours I battled the worse attack of my life during a dinner at home. Something had to give.
So as I looked towards the summer, and began preparing for our “Hope for Healing” series, I realized it was time for divine intervention. I expressed my fatigue and frustration to God, and asked Him to heal me. And He did.
I no longer take acid blockers, no longer wake up in the middle of the night in severe pain, and no longer have to continually dismiss myself from the table to battle this condition that plagued my life for more than twenty years! I have experienced God’s physical healing in my life!
I believe it has come with an expectation of accountability. I exercise aggressively three times a week, have lost almost 10% of my body weight, pay much greater attention to what I eat, and have learned not to enjoy those 9 p.m. nachos and soda! (Though maybe an occasional ball park hot dog. . .or four!) God has taught me to do a better job caring for this body that He has given me, because it is the only one I get down here. And in turn, He has answered my prayer, and brought physical healing to me!
I believe there is a hope for healing because I believe God to be true to His word. I believe there is a hope for healing because history is full of His miraculous power. But most of all. . .I believe there is a hope for healing, because I have experienced His physical healing in my own life.
Now, my gut. . .no pun intended. . .is that some of you read that last fall with great skepticism, and some probably hear it today with an equal level of skepticism. That’s what God’s miraculous moving tends to do to us. Doesn’t seem to well up faith within us, seems to bring to the surface skepticism.
“Well. . .were you ever really sick?” “Do you have pictures, and CAT scans of the tumors?” “Can you show me the scars?” We are a skeptical bunch.
Let me encourage you. When someone approaches you, when the blind man comes back to your fellowship, just rejoice in the healing. Don’t worry about if it comes back some day. Don’t rationalize away how they were never really sick. Don’t discredit them as being a sham. Why would we want to do that, and rob God of the opportunity for glory?
Number 4. . .
4. LEGALISM EQUATED AS SIN IS NOT GOD’S STANDARD.
This healed man has had the pleasure now of encountering the Pharisees. Always a guaranteed pick-me-up to your day. They have argued with him. Made his parents come in and identify the body.
And this is their real problem with this whole thing. They can’t get over the fact that if healed, this man would have been healed in violation of God’s law. So he would have been healed by a sinner. How can that be? How can a sinner heal?
But here is the problem. They have taken their laws and regulations, and now equated them all to sin. Follow this with me. Jesus had done this miracle on the Sabbath. Well, we know that one of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy. If you don’t do that, you would be sinning.
But as time has gone by, they have come up with their definitions of what it means to keep the Sabbath holy, and they have equated that with the commandment. So they have now made a law that defines making mud out of saliva on the Sabbath as working on the Sabbath, therefore not keeping it holy, and therefore it is sin.
Looked like this for me growing up. We’re supposed to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. We celebrate Sunday as the Sabbath. To not honor Sunday and keep it holy would be a sin. TV is not holy. TV is not honorable to the Sabbath. Therefore, if you watch TV on Sunday, you have sinned. TV on Monday through Saturday wasn’t sin. Whatever you watch. Folding and stuffing the bulletins at the parsonage while watching the Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday night wasn’t sin. But football on Sunday. . .sin.
But you see, the legalism the church defines as sin is not God’s standard of sin. For those of us whose former Mecca was Kansas City, we knew that dancing breaks down sexual inhibitions. Broken down sexual inhibitions results in sexual activity. Sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. So. . .dancing is sin.
Using God’s name in vain is sin. God’s name is used in vain in movies. Watching movies endorses and finances those people who use God’s name in vain. So. . .watching movies is sin.
It all made so much sense through the decades, and now we have this grand list of legalistic obligations that we now equate to sin, but have never been declared such by God. Let me encourage you. As you minister to people’s lives. As you build relationships with co-workers, lost family members, and neighbors. Don’t major on the minors.
Is there really anything more honoring and memorable to the Sabbath than to heal someone? To deliver someone from a life long infirmary? To complete a miracle that brings glory to God? Is that not a great way to honor the Sabbath?
Don’t confuse God’s standard for sin with our own versions of legalism. Number 5. . .
5. SALVATION ISN’T REQUIRED TO BE HEALED.
This is a tough one. Some of us aren’t going to like this. I sure don’t. Verse 35 (read through verse 37). Okay, did you catch this? He was healed back in the beginning of our story. Verses and verses ago. Isn’t that funny how we measure time by verse numbers?
Did the blind man know at the time who the Son of God was? Did he believe in the Son of God? Was he healed anyway?
Now, how many of us are not real comfortable with that? You mean, God would heal some heathen who doesn’t even know Him? God would heal someone without any religious training, spiritual intellect or personal relationship with Him. . .while other believers go un-healed? That doesn’t seem fair. Told you these were tough.
But it is there in black and white, and maybe red. The blind man has been healed, and he doesn’t even know anything about the healing other than the man’s name was Jesus. Did you see verse 25 (read)?
Let me suggest something to you. If you have a friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor that is not a Christian but is in need of physical healing. Do two things: first, pray for the person’s healing. It’s okay. You can do it. It doesn’t necessarily make you shallow, or praying out of the will of God.
In fact, just imagine how easy it might become for that person to believe if they get healed. How many people in the Bible get healed, then Jesus says, “Do you believe?” or “Go and sin no more.” And they say. . .”Yea, right. I’m not buying you.” Physical healing tends to be pretty convincing in the life of the non-believer.
And secondly, encourage them to pray for their healing. People pray more than you think. Even non-Christians. Might not do a nicely formatted ACTS prayer of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Might just be a crowd prayer of “Feed me. Heal me. Care for me.” That’s okay. God can handle it.
But knowing that salvation isn’t required to be healed. Why not pray that a healing might help lead a person to salvation?
Last one. . .as important as that physical healing is. . .always remember that. . .
6. BLINDNESS IS NOT JUST A PHYSICAL CONDITION.
Verse 39 (read through verse 41). Jesus says, “You see. And what you think you see reveals how blind you really are. You’re eyes may see, but you are spiritually blind.”
Over in chapter 15 it says this in verse 22 (read through verse 24). You see the more that is revealed to us. . .the easier it is to get tunnel vision. To get focused in on the wrong thing to the neglect of everything else God has placed around us.
We can get focused on song selection, rather than worshiping our Creator. We can get focused on parking spaces, rather than fellowshipping with others. We can get focused on football, basketball, sleep. . .rather than on digging into God’s Word.
But blindness is not just a physical condition. And it is often our spiritual blindness that we are most blind to, and most in need of healing from.
And when confronted by all of these truths about Jesus. His working works that defy our skepticism. His unwillingness to define sin by our legalism. His mercy and grace to lost and reprobate people. When all these truths are revealed to us, we don’t want to look at them, so we live life blind.
Well, too much. . .too little time. . .too few preaching opportunities each year. I was with John Fowler who pastors our Owensboro Southside Church this week. He said they worship from about 10:45 until about 12:30, 12:40. Said some people get up and leave around 12, 12:15. They’ve had enough. At times I wish I had the courage to teach that long.
Two things I want you to take out of today. John gives a whole chapter to this miracle, and most of the chapter is not about the miracle. It is about how people, how the church, how family members, how society responds to Jesus miraculous working. I hope you will spend some time reflecting on some of these observations and looking at some of the other challenges posed in this chapter.
Second, whether you are a believer or not. Whether you are living in sin, or not. Whatever disclaimers or filters you might have previously put on your healing. . .God doesn’t have to operate within those restrictions. He is free to heal whomever He desires, whenever He desires.
So as we close our service today, if you would like prayer for healing, we are going to sing a hymn of healing. . .and I want to encourage you to come forward today, and we’ll pray that whatever your situation and circumstances, that God would move in a mighty way and bring you healing today.